Red Cliff asks trustee to resign
RED CLIFF, Colorado ” The town of Red Cliff has asked one of its Board of Trustees members to resign, saying the man tried to take a piece of land from the town.
The board sent a letter to Trustee Scott Burgess last month asking him to step down over an alleged conflict of interest that centers around litigation over the ownership of land adjacent to Burgess’ home on Eagle Street.
In 2006, Burgess obtained a “quiet title” decree for the land. The town, in turn, filed suit in March 2008, claiming it was the true owner of the land. An Eagle County judge ruled in December in favor of the town.
Days later, the Board of Trustees voted to ask Burgess to resign. Burgess has declined to step down, and the Board of Trustees unanimously voted Monday to schedule a public hearing next Monday on Burgess’ removal.
Following the hearing, a majority vote of the board would remove Burgess from office, said Ruth Borne, Red Cliff town attorney.
Mayor Ramon Montoya said that Burgess ignored advice from other board members going back two years and continued to pursue control of the land.
“He tried to get something for nothing,” Montoya said. “He paid zero for it, and it’s a piece of town property, and he just refused to hear that from the beginning.”
Burgess defended his actions.
“I don’t see that I’ve done anything that’s a conflict of interest,” Burgess said.
Burgess said he considered building a workshop for his business on the land, which he says is now used for his driveway. He said he did a title search for the property, which indicated there was no owner.
“I thought that was a clear go-ahead to move on with ‘quiet title,'” Burgess said.
Quiet title is a method of establishing a party’s title to property. Burgess filed the action for quiet title for the land, which was granted.
Burgess did not name the town of Red Cliff in the quiet title action, even though the town had an interest in the property based on records that date back to the late 1800s, Borne said.
The town repeatedly asked Burgess to refile the quiet title claim with the town as a named party, Borne said.
Borne said the matter has cost the town a lot of money ” about $20,000 ” and continues to cost the town money in legal fees. The town doesn’t currently use the vacant land for anything, but could in the future, Borne said.
The Board of Trustees tried to provide an opportunity for Burgess to resign without the matter “becoming a public situation,” Borne said.
Montoya said the Board of Trustees struggled with the issue but decided that the town must move forward with the process of removing him.
“The confidence has been lost,” Montoya said.
But Burgess says he considers the land matter resolved.
“I honestly hope that we can work this out and keep moving on,” Burgess said. “I feel I was voted onto the board with a very large majority of the voters, and I’m doing a good job. I have a responsibility to the town to stick it out.”
In April’s election, Burgess was the second-leading vote-getter among trustee candidates, with 29 votes. There are 198 registered voters in the small town along U.S. Highway 24 between Minturn and Leadville.
Burgess, who has lived in Red Cliff for about three years, said he thinks he’s being targeted for political reasons.
“I’m not in the good-old-boy club, and I don’t think I’ve been very well received from day one,” he said.
Montoya said that’s not true.
“Whether somebody likes him or not, I think, is irrelevant,” he said.
Montoya and Burgess both said they expect Burgess to be voted off the board Monday.
Several residents who attended Monday’s meeting said they were outraged by the decision to move forward with considering Burgess’ removal.
“I think this is personal. They don’t like him and are trying to get rid of him,” said Red Cliff resident Jim Bradford, adding that Burgess has been a good trustee who doesn’t always simply “go along” with what other board members believe.
Heather Stolz said voters clearly said they wanted Burgess to represent them by electing him last year.
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” she said, adding that Burgess has recused himself on issues that presented a conflict of interest.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.